Study Guide

The Lovely Bones Family

By Alice Sebold

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The Lovely Bones examines the opposite extremes of family life. On the one hand, we have the Salmons, a happy loving family with a stable life in the suburbs. On the other, we have Mr. Harvey, who is completely alone in the world and has never known a happy family moment. He infiltrates suburbia and uses it as a disguise for his dark plans – to destroy the happy family he envies. Yet, even the taking of the oldest child doesn't destroy the love the Salmon family shares. Much of the novel's power lies in its depiction of the breaking down and rebuilding of the Salmon family, the saga it undergoes after Susie's death. It also draws on the popular idea that in the afterlife we meet up with our loved ones. While Susie waits for the rest of her family to join her, she contents herself with her grandfather, who lives with her in heaven and helps her transition her existence away from Earth.

Questions About Family

  1. What do we know about Mr. Harvey's childhood?
  2. Do you think that Harvey is jealous of Susie's family life? Why or why not?
  3. Should Abigail confess her affair to Jack? If she does, or if he finds out in some other way, will their marriage survive? Should Lindsey tell her father what she knows? Why, or why not?
  4. Why does Abigail begin to resent her domestic role?
  5. Why does Ruana Singh ponder divorcing her husband?
  6. Does the novel idealize and romanticize family life? Is it justified in doing so?
  7. How are the home lives of Mr. Harvey and Len Fenerman contrasted with that of the Salmons? What are the effects of the contrast?

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